|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.11, 15.3.01, p1|
EU LEADERS are struggling to contain a new epidemic of "excessive and unnecessary" trade embargoes against European produce amid signs of panic reaction to the arrival of foot-and-mouth disease on the continent.
The European Commission is holding urgent talks with its trade partners to urge them not to join a growing list of countries - including the US and Canada - that have banned produce from all over the EU in response to outbreaks so far confined in Europe to the UK and France.
There are growing fears that the crisis could provoke a rash of new trade disputes after four countries - Morocco, Hungary, Slovakia and Tunisia - went further by blocking imports of EU cereal crops over concerns that they could carry the disease.
"Cereal is certainly not a vector of transmission for foot-and-mouth disease, so we consider this to be excessive," said a spokeswoman for Health Commissioner David Byrne.
European farmers' organisation COPA also condemned the grain embargoes. "This is not supported by any acceptable technical argument or scientific evidence," said spokesman Mauro Galluccio.
Cereal crops account for almost half the €42.8 billion spent each year on the Common Agricultural Policy. That budget ceiling could be breached if bans on EU grain exports become widespread.
Byrne earlier went on the offensive against the "disproportionate" response to foot-and-mouth. "The Commission is deeply disappointed that the very firm and decisive action taken to tackle the current outbreak has been received with excessive and unnecessary action by third countries," he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
"If necessary we will make full use of our bilateral contacts and WTO arrangements to have these restrictions lifted," he added.
The Commissioner also called US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to complain that the American ban on meat and livestock breaches international agreements on the 'regionalisation' principle - restricting trade embargoes to directly-affected regions.
Officials in her department said they would not lift the ban until the disease had been contained. The move by the US and Canada to block the imports - worth €400 million a year according to Commission estimates - follows similar measures by Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and South Korea.
The discovery of foot-and-mouth at Mayenne in northwestern France this week increased pessimism about the chances of preventing its spread. France sold 1.5 million cattle to other EU countries in 1999, making it the Union's largest exporter.
"I fear there are other cases, and I'm doing everything to limit it as much as possible," said French agriculture minister Jean Glavany.
Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Colombia have also reported cases of foot-and-mouth outbreaks in recent days.
EU leaders are struggling to contain a new epidemic of 'excessive and unnecessary' trade embargoes against European produce amid signs of panic reaction to the arrival of foot-and-mouth disease on the continent.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry|